Israel Fuguemann

Journalist & Photographer
   
Lullabay: A sacred funeral in Colombia
Location: Colombia
Nationality: Mexican
Biography: Journalist and documentary photographer.  In the last years his work focused on social and environmental themes, especially documenting people and cultures in resistance, and the always more extensive reality of extractivism of raw materials... MORE
Public Story
Lullabay: A sacred funeral in Colombia
Copyright Israel Fuguemann 2024
Updated Sep 2018
Topics Black and White, Children, Culture, Culture stories, Documentary, Ethnic minorities, Health/Healing, Hunger, Journalism, Latin America, Minority, Photography, Photojournalism, Poverty, Religious minorities, Reportage, Spirituality
Summary
This story is one of the few photographic reports that exist about an Arhuaco funeral, in this case, that of a minor (Juanito).
The Arhuaco people are one of the oldest and most intact in South America. They are located in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta in Colombia and have become guardians of nature in the world in the face of climate change. Their worldview linked to nature offers us one of the oldest ways of life on this continent, but also, unfortunately, one of the poorest people in America.

Juanito has died. His little body lies stretched out as if he were just asleep, listening to a lullaby, perhaps dreaming like children his age (five years) do, but he is not; Juanito, in fact, died in agony for the last hours of his life. Before burying him, his family organized a funeral as humble as his way of life: prayers, wind music, and a little rum during the last night of his physical body between them.

In Colombia, there are around half a million children under the age of five who suffer from chronic malnutrition and around fifteen thousand with acute malnutrition, according to the latest National Survey of the Nutritional Situation of Colombia. In indigenous communities, such as Nabusimake, thirty out of every hundred minors present this pathology.

Nabusimake is the capital of the Ika or Arhuaca culture, one of the oldest and most forgotten indigenous communities in Colombia and Latin America; They are direct descendants of the Tayronas, one of the most important pre-Columbian cultures in the South of the continent. Located in a small valley surrounded by the mountains of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, this small natural paradise protects a way of life and worldview very different from the rest of the country, where the trace of Spanish colonialism dominates most of the social strata.

To reach the so-called "capital of the Arhuaco people", the people who inhabit the deep mountains have to travel for hours through winding paths to seek help in medicine that not many of them believe in but has become the last of their hopes when traditional medicine and spiritual practices are not enough to cure any disease.
In the midst of these two opposing worldviews, people like Juanito often struggle between life and death. For Yesi, a "mamo" from the area, who was the last to inspect Juanito when he was already dying, this difference in beliefs and knowledge is a long debate that possibly has neither end nor exit in the logic of both positions.

For the family that raised Juanito, his spirit was doomed from the time he was born; this bad omen was the sentence that marked his life: he was almost always ill and with little energy to live. For those in charge of the small clinic in Nabusimake, and for some neighbors, Juanito's death is the result of a chain of chronic and systemic problems that, year after year, girls and boys from this and other communities in Colombia face: corruption, poverty, hunger, diseases summed up in one word: malnutrition.
Lullaby is a photographic work that documents not only the death or the mortuary ritual of a minor in Ika-Arhuaco territory, but it is also a window to the way one of the least known people’s lives and that has best preserved its traditions and beliefs in America.
Juanito ha muerto. Su cuerpecito yace estirado como si acabara de dormir, escuchando una canción de cuna, tal vez soñando como los niños de su edad (cinco años), pero no lo está; Juanito, de hecho, murió en agonía durante las últimas horas de su vida. Antes de enterrarlo, su familia organizó un funeral tan humilde como su forma de vida: oraciones, música de viento y un poco de ron durante la última noche de su cuerpo físico entre ellos.

En Colombia hay alrededor de medio millón de niños menores de cinco años que padecen desnutrición crónica y alrededor de quince mil con desnutrición aguda, según la última Encuesta Nacional de Situación Nutricional de Colombia. En comunidades indígenas, como Nabusimake, treinta de cada cien menores presentan esta patología.

Nabusimake es la capital de la cultura Ika o Arhuaca, una de las comunidades indígenas más antiguas y olvidadas de Colombia y América Latina; Son descendientes directos de los Tayronas, una de las culturas precolombinas más importantes del sur del continente. Ubicado en un pequeño valle rodeado por las montañas de la Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, este pequeño paraíso natural resguarda una forma de vida y cosmovisión muy diferente al resto del país, donde la huella del colonialismo español domina la mayor parte de los estratos sociales.

Para llegar a la llamada "capital del pueblo arhuaco", las personas que habitan las montañas profundas tienen que viajar durante horas por caminos sinuosos para buscar ayuda en una medicina en la que no muchos creen pero que se ha convertido en la última de sus esperanzas cuando la medicina tradicional y las prácticas espirituales no son suficientes para curar ninguna enfermedad.
En medio de estas dos cosmovisiones opuestas, personas como Juanito a menudo luchan entre la vida y la muerte. Para Yesi, un "mamo" de la zona, que fue el último en inspeccionar a Juanito cuando ya agonizaba, esta diferencia de creencias y saberes es un largo debate que posiblemente no tenga fin ni salida en la lógica de ambas posturas.

Para la familia que crió a Juanito, su espíritu estuvo condenado desde que nació; este mal presagio fue la sentencia que marcó su vida: estuvo casi siempre enfermo y con pocas energías para vivir. Para los encargados de la pequeña clínica de Nabusimake, y para algunos vecinos, la muerte de Juanito es el resultado de una cadena de problemas crónicos y sistémicos que, año tras año, enfrentan niñas y niños de esta y otras comunidades de Colombia: corrupción, pobreza. , hambre, enfermedades resumidas en una palabra: desnutrición.
Lullaby es una obra fotográfica que documenta no solo la muerte o el ritual mortuorio de un menor en territorio Ika-Arhuaco, sino que también es una ventana a la forma de vida de uno de los pueblos menos conocidos y que mejor ha conservado sus tradiciones y creencias en America.

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Lullabay: A sacred funeral in Colombia by Israel Fuguemann
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